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Organizing Before and After Vacations

This post is written by certified professional organizer Tiffany Engler.

What happened to vacations? I remember back to my school days when I would count down the minutes to the annual 4th of July family vacation. I would pack a bag or two – with my mom’s help – and then jump in the van. I was filled with excitement as we pulled out of the driveway and on the road to fun.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still count down the days to vacations and greatly anticipate the fun we will have, but it sure is a lot harder these days to go on vacation and quite frankly it is a lot harder coming home from vacation.

Throughout my adult years of taking vacations I have realized that there are some very important things I must do to keep myself sane both before I leave and after I return. In hopes that you too might have a more peaceful vacation I wanted to share these tips with you:

Before leaving for vacation:

  • Clean your house (or have someone do it while you are away). Nothing is worse than coming home from vacation to a dirty home. Trust me, I’ve done it and it feels horrible.
  • Aside from a few people who you may “check-in” with while on vacation, tell everyone else that you will be leaving home 1-2 days earlier than you actually are. Here’s why: The 1-2 days before you leave on vacation are very hectic. You are doing the last few loads of laundry, picking up, making last minute travel arrangements, running errands, paying bills, and wrapping up any loose ends. If you can free yourself from any engagements, to-do’s or get togethers a few days before vacation, that will allow you leave your home in a somewhat peaceful state.
  • If you are running low on the essentials like toilet paper or washing detergent go shopping for those things before you leave. You will not be happy if you return home to do laundry and have no soap. Think of things you can do to make it easier on you when you arrive home.

After you return from vacation:

  • Aside from 1 or 2 people whom you may “check-in” with while on vacation tell everyone else that you will be arriving home 2 days later than you actually are. Here’s why: when you get home from vacation you will be exhausted. You will have to unpack, do the laundry, put away all the knick knacks you purchased, go through the mail and paperwork that piled up, respond to emails and social media and simply catch up on everything waiting for your return. This catching up will easily take 2 days.
  • And this ties in to the last point, don’t go back to work the day after you return because then you will be so far behind by the time weekend comes it will be overwhelming.
  • Have a few frozen dinners ready for your return home. The last thing you will want to do is go grocery shopping or cook. Take-out menus are another option.

In closing, I will say that I love vacations. I think they are important for our health and well being, but that’s not to say they can’t be stressful and very, very time consuming. Plan accordingly and leave days on both ends of the vacation for catching up, cleaning and organizing and you will feel much happier.

Tiffany Engler, CPO® loves to help her clients break overwhelming organizing projects into small pieces to achieve big results. She gets a rush helping people finish something they have been putting off for years. Check out her website at

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One Response to Organizing Before and After Vacations

  1. Damian October 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    While I understand the philosophy of telling people you’re leaving earlier and returning later than you really are, I would think this could be difficult for short trips such as weekend jaunts. Otherwise, I like the suggestions.

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